A Magical Evening
A roundtable discussion with the authors of five books that captured my attention and held it page after page, and long after I returned the book to the shelf. (It was hard to list only five and even then my list is not complete.)
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Désirée by Annemarie Selinko
The Cat and Mrs. Carey by Doris Gates
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Eight by Katherine Neville
I asked Alice B. Toklas to cater the evening and Gertrude Stein to chair the discussion. As most of the authors are no longer of this earth, Ms. Stein suggested we meet in her flat on the Left Bank of Paris at 27 rue de Fleurus.
It was a lively crowd and lengthy discussion, which only ended after Alice served the morning coffee following what I can only describe as a magical night. Sadly, I can only share the highlights of my evening of a lifetime.
“Brenda, this is your night. What did you want to accomplish?” Gertrude asked.
And so the night began. I was aflutter with butterflies as you might imagine.
“Are we your favorite writers?” Mr. Chandler wanted to know.
“Each of you authored books that I love.”
“Of all the books ever written, this is the extent of your list? It’s not extensive, my dear. Alice chirped from the back of the room.
“Hush, Alice.” Gertrude cut in.
“I know my list is a poor sampling, but I chose these stories because they both inspired and taught me something about writing and myself.”
“Excuse me, but I feel woefully inadequate. I wrote a children’s book that is no longer in print and not of the caliber of Mr. Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. Mr. C, beautiful work, by the way.”
“Why, thank you.” Raymond smiled before taking a long drag of his unfiltered cigarette.
“Mrs. Gates —“ I interjected.
“–Please, call me Doris.”
“Doris, of all the books I ever read, yours was the first to inspire me. It has a talking cat, there’s a mystery, a lonely widow, and best of all it has a happy ending. The Cat and Mrs. Cary ignited my passion for reading.”
“Alice, give Doris a box of tissue, she’s tearing up.” Instead of tissue, Alice gave Doris a glass of sherry. It’s not what Gertrude asked, but then Alice was always a free thinker.
“Little lady, tell me how you made the jump from talking cats to a cattle drive from Texas to Montana?” Larry asked between sips of single malt. “Call me Larry.”
“Thanks, Larry. I honestly do not know. I had never read a book like yours. Sure, I have seen The Searchers and Shane, dozens of times, but I had no interest in reading a western novel. All I can tell you is that once I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.”
“How does that inspire you, dear—“
“–Alice!” Gertrude snipped.
“The characters never left me. Even now, I can still hear Peaeye talking to Gus. Not to mention Captain Call.” I turned to face Mr. Conroy. “Prince of Tides had the same affect on me.”
“To some readers, I am an acquired taste.”
“So I’ve heard but I love your work. It’s your usage of language, that and the way Tom Wingo comes alive on the first page when he says, “My wound is my geography,” you had me at the end of that sentence.” Pat winked at me.
“I’m feeling faint.” Charlotte whispered from the corner.
“ Have a glass of sherry, dear, it will relax you immensely.”
“Alice, she might prefer a cup of—“
“–Nonsense, Gertrude.” Alice turned to me, “Brenda, it does seem to me your favorite stories, how shall I word this—“
“–Spit it out, Alice. You always do.”
“Yes, G, I do have a way. Brenda, the novels you call your favorites have nothing in common. I took the liberty of reading each one of them before you came. What, pray tell, does Jane Eyre have in common with The Eight?”
“From Miss Brontë’s, Jane, I discovered the romantic in me. Hers, like the other stories, including Ms. Neville’s, are about the human spirit and how it endures despite, or maybe in spite of, our personal tragedies. There’s an indescribable beauty in that. You’re right, though, Alice, each of the books I’ve listed are as different as their creators.
And my magical evening went on and on.
Writer Beverly tagged in me the Fab Five. You’ll find a great list to pick from as well as a wonderful writer with a strong wit and big heart. Edith’s – Room of My Own – Fab Five list is far loftier than my own, have a look, and you won’t be disappointed. I was remiss in asking others to participate, other than Monica – please visit her site. She is a fabulous storyteller. If you are interested in sharing, then TAG, you’re it.
If you were boarding a slow boat to China tomorrow, what’s the first book you’d pull off the shelf to take along with you on the journey?
ps: I am behind in reading and commenting on your Blogs, even my own. Bear with me, I promise I’ll get there before the weekend is out (I am desperately trying to finish a WIP by the end of the month and time is at a premium). xox Brenda